Once again, Scandinavia House hosts one of the best bargains tickets going on in town tonight, this time with Norwegian trio In The Country. Equal parts mournful and pretty, In The Country’s compositions show a great deal of imagination at work in the mind of pianist bandleader Morten Qvenild. Although the band — which also includes standup bass, drums and additional keys and percussion — does throw in a dash of whimsy every now and again, its stock in trade is atmospheres that move so slowly they seem to just hang in the air like a fine mist. In skillful counterpoint to this, however, drummer Pål Hausken suggests just enough force to underscore the music with tension and energy and color it with barely perceptible shades of rock. When he plays the vibraphone, an instrument normally used to lend a sense of fragility, the overall sound gets strangely bigger and more dramatic. On record, even with Marc Ribot guesting on a couple of tracks, In The Country’s music tends to fall easily into to the background, as if the band is more than happy for it to be there. But in person the trio does a great job of absorbing the audience into its dreamy bubble of sound. When all three members start chanting out of nowhere, for example, the show veers into uplifting, other-worldly realms, and the band’s discreet touch and soft pace might have you too busy enjoying the show to notice how progressive Qvenild’s writing truly is. The last in a small parade of Scandinavian acts passing through NYC after playing the Rochester International Jazz Festival (where several of them stole the show and had the crowd murmuring in pleasant surprise), In The Country provides yet another compelling glimpse into what appears to be a vital jazz scene brewing in that part of the world. If you harbor any doubts about the ability of Danes, Swedes, Fins or Norwegians to capture jazz with the right feel or inventiveness, here’s the last chance you’re going to get for a while to prove yourself wrong.
Tonight, June 18, Scandinavia House, 58 Park Ave. (betw. 37th & 38th Sts.), 212-879-9779; 7:30, $5 ($3 members).